We live in a busy world. Sometimes we miss the signs or symbols that bring us comfort. I appreciate the fact that when I’m out and about, I am always looking for something that I deem was meant for me to see. I like to see what people have on their cars, whether it is a bumper sticker or window stickers or a personalized license plate.
Last week, I was behind a car whose license plate said: “MLK INSP” so I pondered, hmmm…Milk Inspector? Was it paying homage to a nice dairy farm job, making sure the milk had passed the FDA approval? And then I realized it was for Martin Luther King, Inspire.
I went back to my childhood and the day we were told by our teacher that Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. Our class was silent, our teacher had tears in her eyes. We were given an assignment to write our thoughts down.
I wrote “Martin Luther King loved people. He had a dream that his four children would not be judged by the color of their skin and also people loved, loved him. He fought for freedom, when I am older, I will fight for freedom too.”
Seeing that license plate was a gentle reminder of what really matters. Thank you, anonymous driver who per chance happened to be the car in front of me that day. Thank you MLK. I will always remember that you once said, “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” And I will continue to shine bright and hope to inspire others, too.
This November will mark the first year without my father-in-law. He passed away at the ripe young age of 90. He lived a simple life and I think one of the hardest things he had gone through was the year of COVID-19. The restrictions presented during that year were quite challenging for him. He couldn’t visit the local Starbucks he had frequented for over 20 years. He cherished going to see his buddies driving there every morning just before dawn, for round one of his friends who were going to work and stay there for round two of his friends who were semi-retired. When he couldn’t drive any longer, he took the SCV Senior Dial-A-Ride there.
One day last fall, I was taking him to his doctor appointment, and I had him sit in the back seat of my minivan and I drove to “his” Starbucks so he could say hi to everyone. I said, “You have to wear your mask and I’ll open the side door so you can see your friends.”
He was elated. It was just around the time when the lockdown was easing up a bit and I thought it would cheer him up to parade wave and say hello!
Sam called me Jen-ski and I called him Sammy or Sam-ski. I’ve been in the family for over 30 years, and if you count the fact that I dated my husband in high school, eventually marrying him in the late 1980s, well then it tops over 40 years I had known him.
Sam considered me his daughter, the daughter he never had. He literally thought that I was the one he had to talk to before any decisions were made. From a new water heater to hiring a plumber when he needed to replace the toilet in his guest bathroom. He would call on Jen-ski. I made sure he had new clothes and each week he gave me his grocery list. I cleaned the lint out of his dryer, watered his plants and kept his living room mantle adorned with family photos.
I could go on and on about the stories, but the gist of this musing is that in the wee hours one morning last November, we got the call that he had passed away. A few days prior he didn’t feel right, and he was admitted into the hospital. His heart and kidneys were not functioning properly. We couldn’t visit him due to COVID-19, but we had been able to speak with him before he died and we got to say, “We love you!”
About a week after he passed, it was a Saturday, and I was tidying up and channel surfing amidst the grief and realization that Sam was gone. I looked at the cable guide and it said, “2020: USC at Sam Diego State 1 p.m. I was comforted.
Yes, it said, “Sam Diego” and Sam’s favorite team was USC. Who knew that a typo on the television screen and the sheer timing of me seeing it could happen? Ah, life and the comforting coincidences, they never disappoint.
I met an elderly man at the post office years ago. He shared with me his story about emigrating with his family when he was a young boy, eventually settling in Southern California. He had recently moved to a suburb of Los Angeles, but because there weren’t many people of his faith, he didn’t feel comfortable putting a mezuzah on his doorpost. For those of you who don’t know, a mezuzah is a tradition in Judaism, and it is placed on the doorpost to the entrance in a home as a blessing and for protection.
He told me that he was afraid to put up the mezuzah. I told him I thought he should do it, that it was OK, that he didn’t need to worry, and I shared with him this beautiful story about a young girl whose family were devout Christians and the house they purchased had a mezuzah already on the doorpost, because the family who lived there before were Jewish. The mom told me that her youngest daughter wanted it to stay there because it was comforting to have it. I told him not to be afraid, and to put the mezuzah up, to say the prayer as he did it and to each day enjoy the comfort of seeing it.
Last week I was looking out of the kitchen window and saw a white dove standing on the wall in my backyard. The sheer joy of seeing that nearly brought tears to my eyes. There it stood walking on the wall, up and back, as if it was searching for something.
I grabbed my phone and took pictures, relishing in the moment, and after about five minutes I watched it fly to the neighboring wall across the street. For a while it sat there as if to say, “My work here is done.”
And off it flew into the sunset.
This was the second time a white dove had visited my home. The first time in 2013, one flew into my garage and sat on the bins that were stacked by the side wall. It stayed for hours, maneuvering about from the roof of my minivan to the storage bins nearby. I reveled in that special visit and to have had it happen again was a true gift.
They say a white dove is a symbol of peace and is also symbolic of new beginnings, fidelity, love, luck and prosperity. I am thankful for that sign.
Not only will I continue to look for the signs and symbols that are comforting, but also I will share the “wonder” of such things with others.
Jennifer Danny is a Santa Clarita resident.